Some changes are coming to some of the most popular trails in the Ridge to Rivers system.
Later this month, Boise Parks and Recreation will launch a pilot program to manage the growing rapid growth in trail use due to the pandemic and the region’s growth. The program will run through November and impact Hulls Gulch, Polecat Reserve and Around the Mountain trails as the city tries out new strategies to balance the needs of pedestrians, equestrians and mountain bikers.
Balancing growing demand
Hulls Gulch will run on a new schedule where the area will only be open to downhill mountain bikers on odd calendar days and even calendar days will be open to uphill mountain bikers and pedestrians. Polecat Reserve and Around the Mountain will remain open to all users, but they will change to a one-direction trail so users can only travel one way.
On BuckTail Trail, all users will be allowed on the first half of the loop, but the city will build a new trail for pedestrians going downhill. This allows the existing trail to be reserved for downhill mountain bike use only.
Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway said the goal of the pilot is to find ways to make trails fun and safe for all users.
“This is not the same group of users of the system we had 20 years ago,10 years ago, or even 5 years ago,” Holloway said. “We have a lot more mountain bikers now than we did two, three, four and five years ago. We need to be cognizant of that and we need to adjust with our users and keep up with the needs they have and what it will continue to be about as we continue to move forward.”
A trial run of possible permanent changes
Mountain bikers and pedestrians are not always compatible uses because of the high rate of speed bikers like to travel and the blind corners and narrow trails common in the Ridge to Rivers system. Surveys conducted by Boise Parks and Recreation have seen a growing percentage of users who bike in the system instead of walk in recent years.
The city is currently in the process of developing a communications plan to share the changes with the public and developing signs to post on the impacted trails on the new changes. Holloway said it is not a permanent change and the department will remain “nimble” to make changes if it does not work.
This proposal stemmed from two surveys of users and a public meeting attended by over 500 people earlier this year. Holloway said the surveys showed strong support for new mitigation methods to address crowding, more technical elements for mountain bikers and new enforcement measures for dogs on the trails.
Surveys will continue throughout the pilot to gauge users’ reactions to the changes so Parks and Recreation can decide if the changes should be permanent or go in a different direction.